Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II and Distrigas Chairman and CEO Clay Harris today announced the continuation of the Citizens Energy/Distrigas Heat Assistance Program (CEDHAP) to help natural gas customers in Massachusetts who are struggling to pay their home heating bills.
Now in its fourth year of operation, CEDHAP provides eligible households who don’t qualify for federal fuel aid, but earn less than 60% of the median income or who have exhausted their federal benefit, with a $150 credit to their natural gas bills. Last year the program helped about 5,500 Massachusetts households.
At a press conference today at the home of Springfield Resident Pia Hall, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said that the program has benefited many families in the local area.
“On behalf of the City of Springfield, I want to thank Distrigas and Citizens Energy for joining together and helping those in need to pay their natural gas bills this winter,” Mayor Sarno said. “Programs like this are particularly important here in Massachusetts where the cost of living is high, the winters are cold, and local families too often find it difficult to pay for essentials such as heat.”
“Since 1979, my friend Joe Kennedy and Citizens Energy have worked tirelessly to bring home heating oil to needy families all across Massachusetts,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal. “Now working with Distrigas, they have created a unique new state-wide program that will help many families in Western Massachusetts pay for their rising utility bills.”
Citizens Energy is administering the program, and Distrigas has committed about $1 million in funding each year from the proceeds of the LNG cargoes delivered to the company’s LNG import facility in Everett, Massachusetts.
“We're proud to work with Clay Harris and all the good folks at Distrigas and the Springfield fuel assistance agencies who show a real concern for people struggling to pay their heating bills,” said Kennedy, pointing out that the cold and snowy December left many area families with high heating bills and strained household budgets as winter was just officially beginning.
Harris added, “With the weakening economy and the cold weather that Massachusetts has been experiencing, this program is more necessary this year than ever before. I strongly urge residents who are having difficulty making ends meet to apply for help.”
In New England, 34% of all homeowners use natural gas for home heating. Since CEDHAP was launched in January 2005, thousands of Massachusetts households have used the program, with payments being made on behalf of customers of Bay State Gas, Berkshire Gas, Holyoke Gas & Electric, KeySpan, Middleboro Gas & Electric, NStar, Unitil and Westfield Gas & Electric. More than 6,000 households are expected to benefit from the program in 2008.
Lifelong Springfield Resident Pia Hall used to get by working as a receptionist at a local beauty salon until her mom fell gravely ill with a severe nerve disorder. For the last two years, she has stayed at home to care for her mom. “This $150 is literally going to be the difference in keeping my mom and daughter warm and healthy or going cold. I am just so grateful for the help,” said Hall.
Kennedy also thanked the local fuel assistance agencies across the state for their role in helping to inform low-income Bay Staters about how to apply for this program.
Households who believe they may qualify for assistance through CEDHAP are encouraged to call 1-866-GAS-9918. Callers to this hotline can receive a $150 credit on their gas utility bills by undergoing a simple two-step process:
1. Leave their name and address on the hotline, and an application form will be mailed to the household within 24 hours.
2. Fill out the form and return it to Citizens Energy along with a copy of their gas bill. The program will then credit the household’s gas account.
Citizens Energy Corporation exists to help make life’s basic needs more accessible and affordable. Beginning in 1979 with oil-trading ventures in Latin America and Africa, Citizens Energy has used revenues from commercial enterprises to channel millions of dollars into charitable programs in the U.S. and abroad. Whether heating the homes of the elderly and poor in Massachusetts, lowering the cost of healthcare for millions of Americans, or starting solar heating projects in Jamaica and Venezuela, Citizens Energy creates social ventures as innovative as the businesses that finance them. At Citizens Energy, we believe no one should be left out in the cold.
Distrigas of Massachusetts LLC is part of SUEZ Energy North America, Inc., the business unit of SUEZ Energy International responsible for managing SUEZ’ s positions within the energy value chain in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, including electricity generation and cogeneration, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), asset-based trading and origination, and retail energy sales and related services to commercial and industrial customers. Distrigas of Massachusetts owns and operates an LNG receiving terminal in Everett, Mass., which began operations in 1971 and currently serves most of the natural gas utilities in New England and key power producers, meeting approximately 20 percent of New England’ s annual natural gas demand. For more information about these companies and their activities, please visit the following Web sites: SUEZ -- www.suez.com; SUEZ Energy International -- www.suezenergyint.com; and SUEZ Energy North America -- www.suezenergyna.com .